World Bulletin / News Desk
Kim Jong-pil, seen in the South as a "kingmaker", reportedly made the claim during a meeting last week. Kim also held private discussions with Ban during the U.N. chief's visit to his homeland in May.
Media reports have continued to tip Ban for a future in South Korean politics once his term as U.N. chief ends at the close of this year, which would allow enough time for a presidential bid as South Koreans are not set to vote on a new leader until Dec. 2017.
Recent polls have added weight to the speculation as the local JoongAng Ilbo newspaper placed Ban’s support rating around 15 percentage points higher than his nearest potential rival.
“I think Ban has clearly made up his mind,” said conservative icon Kim in comments carried by news agency Yonhap.
The U.N. chief, however, is yet to confirm any such ambition, having remained coy on the matter over the last few months amid criticism from some opposition politicians in South Korea.
Ban would have to overcome accusations of a conflict of interest if he were to break with international protocol and go straight from his global post to represent the conservative Saenuri Party in the 2017 presidential contest.
The Saenuri camp would otherwise likely face a tough task in producing a popular candidate based on an underwhelming performance in April’s parliamentary election.
Formerly a foreign minister under a left-leaning administration more than a decade ago, 72-year-old Ban’s expected conservative allegiance is already riling North Korea.
Last week, Pyongyang’s state-run Uriminzokkiri website referred to him as an “experienced American spy”.